NBA players aren’t finding happiness in wealth and fame

“I’ve been rich. I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” That was the wisdom according to the words on a poster.

The masses generally agree with that sentiment. That’s why it may surprise you to learn that NBA commissioner Adam Silver is concerned about the mental health of the rich and famous NBA athletes.

“When I meet with them, what surprises me is that they’re truly unhappy,” said Silver recently. “We are living in a time of anxiety. I think it’s a direct result of social media. A lot of players are unhappy.”

Not everyone is sympathetic to the plight of NBA players. “I think that’s probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard Adam say,” said NBA Hall of Famer and TV analyst Charles Barkley. “Listen … these guys are making $20, $30, $40 million a year. They work six, seven months a year. We stay in the best hotels in the world. They ain’t got no problems. That’s total bogus.”

Like it or not though, the commissioner’s acknowledgment of players’ unhappiness is hard to ignore.

Depression and anxiety is not something to scoff at or shame. Some say it’s a product of their jobs – the isolation, the travel, the separation from family, the inability to connect with a rotating band of teammates.

Silver hints that the unhappiness is a product of our broader society.

Dave Zirin, the sports editor of “The Nation,” cites a new government study that shows more Americans are dying from drug and alcohol abuse and suicides than at any point in roughly the past two decades.

Silver realizes that the outside world might be skeptical because of “the fame, the money, (and) the trappings that go with it.”

Writing for boston.com, Nicole Yang said: Although the emergence of social media has helped the league become more fan-friendly, gain exposure, and promote players, Silver is well aware of its downside.

When Michael Jordan was at the University of North Carolina, for example, Silver said the budding NBA talent could “make mistakes and it wasn’t magnified.” The hottest commodity in college basketball this season, Duke’s Zion Williamson, however, is already in the spotlight. As Silver put it, the current crop of elite basketball players doesn’t have the opportunity to be a “nobody.”

“(Zion’s) scrutinized,” Silver said. “Everywhere he goes, every party he’s at, someone’s holding up a camera.”

Royce White was a 2012 first-round draft pick by the Houston Rockets who was bounced from the team allegedly because he was public and unashamed about his own mental health challenges.

“(Adam Silver’s) diagnosis is accurate, though it’s clearly not just the players,” said White. “Coaches, refs, GMs, owners have also spoken about their mental-health issues. The blame certainly isn’t to be placed on social media wholly. In fact, it’s flat-out dishonest for Adam to be the one saying this at all. Adam and I had this discussion through letter correspondence years ago.

“Social media isn’t to blame. If he really believes that, why has the NBA boosted its social media initiatives tenfold?”

Pete Maravich, an NBA star from decades ago, was also an unhappy man despite his astounding ability on the court and the high salary he received. Through it all, he said he was searching “for life.”

Eventually, Maravich became a born-again believer and found that elusive peace after embracing evangelical Christianity. He died of heart failure at age 40.

Of course, not all NBA players are distressed and not all Christians are upbeat and happy.

Struggling to find peace and happiness in life isn’t a recent phenomenon. King Solomon, who is considered the wisest and wealthiest man in history, said the following more than 2,000 years ago in Ecclesiastes 5:10: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.”

Solomon’s words still ring true today.